UK to introduce deposit return scheme to fight plastic pollution

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The UK government has announced plans for a deposit return scheme for plastic and glass bottles as part of a bid to crack down on plastic pollution.

In a 28 March statement, the department for environment, food & rural affairs (DEFRA) said the scheme would be introduced later this year.

UK consumers, said DEFRA, go through an estimated 13 billion plastic drinks bottles a year, more than three billion of which are incinerated, sent to landfill or left as litter.

The scheme, which will be launched in England, will include all single use drinks containers whether plastic, glass or metal.

A consultation period has been launched to look at the details of how such a scheme would work, alongside other measures to increase recycling rates.

In response to the announcement, leading waste management company Suez UK published the results of a national poll conducted by YouGov which suggested most of British consumers would respond positively to the scheme.

“Nearly three quarters of British consumers (74%) would be likely to return plastic bottles and aluminium cans under a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) if they had to pay a deposit of just 10 pence on each one,” said the Suez statement.

The poll, commissioned by Suez, surveyed over 2,000 adults across Britain and also found that 80% of people believed that there were not enough public recycling bins to use in the public areas.

The survey also found that just under 40% of the respondents were most likely to put plastic bottles or cans into a general rubbish bin if a suitable public recycling bin isn’t handy.

Suez also suggested a number of initiatives for “the ideal” deposit return scheme, among them the opportunity for consumers to donate their deposits for different causes.

The scheme, it said, should ideally only target PET bottles and aluminium cans smaller than 0.7 litres.

These, it said, are typically consumed while “on-the-go” instead of at home and are a more significant cause of litter than larger bottles.

Additionally, Suez recommended that the idea scheme?? should be owned/operated by manufacturers, but provide the opportunity for local authorities to generate new revenue streams.

Also welcoming the move, CPRE, the campaign to protect rural England, said it “wholeheartedly congratulates” the government on its decision to introduce a nationwide deposit return system (DRS) for plastic and glass bottles, as well as aluminium cans.

Calling it a watershed moment for recycling in the UK, it said that the introduction will help boost recycling rates and combat the plague of litter blighting the countryside. 

“What’s significant is that producers will now pay the full costs of their packaging, reducing the burden on the taxpayer and setting a strong precedent for other schemes where the polluter pays,” said Samantha Harding, litter programme director at CPRE.

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